MINNEAPOLIS -- A new change in state law makes it easier for military police to transfer their law enforcement skills to the streets of Minnesota.
Until 2013 retiring military police officers seeking to take the reciprocity exam, to prove that their military experience translated to civilian police work, had to until they had a document showing they had left the armed forces in good standing.
That key piece of paperwork, known as the DD-214 form, describes the veteran's service and indicates whether he or she was honorably discharged. It is often delayed, and that can slow the transition to life outside the military.
A bill passed by the 2013 legislature, and signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton, removes that hurdle and makes it easier for active duty personnel to apply for civilian jobs in Minnesota during the closing weeks of their military service.
"It was fortunate for me because I was able to take the reciprocity exam and become licensed as a peace officer here in Minnesota sooner than I would have," Dave Thompson, the new police chief in city of Howard Lake, told KARE.
There are often delays processing that paperwork, which has created time lags for those active duty MPs who want to apply for civilian police jobs.
Thompson was able to take his Minnesota exam in early August, rather than waiting until the end of September when his DD-214 arrived from the Dept. of Defense.
There wasn't any doubt about Lt. Colonel Thompson's qualifications for the Howard Lake job. When he retired he was in command of a military police battalion in Fort Campbell, KY.
His 20 years of active duty service included several stints in Afghanistan, as well as Bosnia and other hot spots. At some of his posts he was in charge of training officers.
The issue was timing.
He was interested in the Howard Lake job, but didn't want to wait for the DD-214 to take the exam clearing the way for it.
"We were renting, and our lease was up," Thompson explained.
"I needed a house in Minnesota, and it's not easy trying to get the loan when you don't have the job offer formal; it was still conditional job offer until I could get licensed by the state."
Dayton said with unemployment higher than average for veterans, he's happy to part of helping the system accommodate situations like Thompson's.
"Chief Thompson was able to take the reciprocal test to become a police chief while he was still in active duty," Dayton told KARE.
"That meant his family was sustained, and he could come to Minnesota rather than moving to another state."
Close to Home
Thompson and his wife both grew up in Minnesota. In fact, Thompson spent five years in the Minnesota Army National Guard during his years at the University of Minnesota.
He looked forward to giving his daughters a chance to finish their high school years in his home state. If he had postponed his retirement, the Army would've sent him to Washington, D.C. for a year.
"The city was very patient, very understanding with the whole process," Thompson recalled.
"So it was nice to be able to take that exam earlier and get that out of the way so that the city could give me formal job offer."
Howard Lake, a town of 2,000 located 43 miles west of Minneapolis, has a small department compared to the public safety system Thompson supervised at the army base in Kentucky.
But he sees it as an opportunity to make more of a difference in the lives of the people he serves.
"The city is very supportive, and this is a great town," he remarked.
"This is what I wanted to do, and because of Minnesota and reciprocity, I was able to do that."
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